Amazon and other businesses have set up shop in the Czech Republic, which is causing many people flocking here to work. The inevitable result, of course, is that rents have skyrocketed. Czech pages on Facebook (Crowdsauce, Prague Flat Rental, etc.) are filled with posts from people looking for an apartment, looking for one to share, or looking for a roommate for an already-occupied apartment.
This, unfortunately, has also led to attempts at scamming the unwary. Two popular sites for those looking for a rental are reality.cz and sreality.cz. Occasionally, an apartment will show up on one of these sites that seems to good to be true. The location is perfect. The price is perfect. Not only is it perfect, it’s surprisingly low. The interested party contacts the owner, and the scam begins.
This email was received last year by a person looking for an apartment. It came from the alleged owner.
“Hello, Please email me only in English because I has born and raise in UK, I DON’T speak Czech. My name is Novotna Renata and I just got an e-mail regarding your interest in my apartment located in Kytlická 758/21, Prosek, 19000 Praha 9. I am looking for someone to rent my flat inherited from my grand-mother. I am the single owner, the apartment is fully paid and there is no legal problem. The apartment is unoccupied since I no longer live there. I want to rent my apartment to some nice and responsible persons, so I would like to know more details about yourself : How old are you, if you are married, if you have a pet, if you have a car, occupation, for how long you want to rent my apartment etc.. In addition to the rest, here is some information about myself and about the apartment, so we get to know a little more: The apartment is exactly like in the pictures, very clean and equipped with everything you need, has been recently renovated. The rent per month is 6100 CZK with All Utilities Included (water, electricity, internet, cable ). About me, I am 49 years old and I am a researcher in pharmaceutical products, currently living in London, my home town. I’m in London, United Kingdom but I already though at a solution so you can get the keys and visit the apartment to make an impression. Here are more pictures: http://share.pho.to/AMTXm
Thank you, Novotna Renata”
Anyone familiar with the way English is spoken by the Czechs will spot the “Czenglish” immediately. Any native speaker should be able to notice the errors. But a non-native speaker might not catch the flawed English. The low price – too low – is another warning flag, but when a would-be renter is desperate, he/she is easy prey.
If the potential tenant shows an interest in renting the apartment, the scammer sends another email. This is one example:
The delivery for the keys (apartment keys, interphone, alarm) and viewing permit (signed by me), will be made through an authorized courier and using a Airbnb Escrow Account ( www.airbnb.com/trust ) to make sure that we can trust each other. Using Airbnb escrow account involves three parties: me as owner, you as a potential tenant and Airbnb as a responsible third party authorized to proper conduct of the transaction.
Here is the procedure explained : The Escrow Account Airbnb works the same way as the escrow account on which you place the deposit when you rent an apartment, except that instead of a bank, we use Airbnb. Of course, nobody can touch that money until you have not returned the keys. The escrow deposit, the first month rent + rental guarantee must be filed by bank transfer to activate the escrow account. The delivery will be by a licensed company such as DHL, Federal Express or UPS and it will be sent by Airbnb at your home. To initiate the process, I need the following information about you: -Shipping Address (address where you want the package to be delivered) and name of recipient; -Delivery Schedule (local time you’ll be at home to receive the package and sign the receipt); -Phone number; You don’t need to open an account with Airbnb because this transaction is a rental and the Landlord must open the transaction, just send me your personal details and i will open a case with them immediately. Then Airbnb sends you the keys and the contract already filled with your details; You will have 14 days to inspect apartment since the arrival date; If you want to keep the apartment, they give me the money, and we go on from there; If you do not keep the apartment, you send the keys/contract back to Airbnb and you get your money back. This will be in writing in the Airbnb contract I will sign. The Airbnb fees will be paid by me when I will initiate the procedure, you will have to pay for the money transfer fees when you pay the deposit.
This email contains a link to an Airbnb page. This is a legitimate page, but – and this is VERY important – Airbnb does NOT involve itself in escrow accounts. The link is, apparently, simply put in the email to give the entire transaction an air of legitimacy. If the potential tenant had sent the money, that would have been it – no more emails from the “owner”, no refund, and, of course, no apartment.
When renting, it is not only important, but vital, to remember these rules:
1. Do not rent any property you have not seen and inspected.
2. Do not hand over any money until you have signed a rental agreement.
3. Make sure you see the rental agreement. If it is in Czech, have it translated by a reliable translator.
4. Be sure you understand the rental agreement completely.
5. Be sure that the person renting to you is either the owner, or the owner’s authorized representative.
6. Be sure that you know exactly how much you will pay in rent, fees, and utilities. Get it in writing.
7. Check for a termination date. Rental agreements often terminate after one year, with the option to renew.
8. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Keep yourself and your money safe, and never rent a place sight unseen.